All hell has broken loose in the diesel hatchback segment and Maruti is squarely to blame for that. Granted, there were plenty of talented hatchbacks on the roads before the Swift diesel came on the scene but it was Maruti's finest that jump-started the segment and sparked off a power war. As a result every manufacturer wants to have a diesel option on its hatchback list and this month it's Nissan which has introduced a 1.5-litre diesel engine on the Micra.
The 63bhp unit has been borrowed from the Renault Logan so you get the same DCi logo as the Logan's. Visually the car looks similar to the petrol version. Nissan is offering alloy wheels on the top-end XV versions of Micra diesel, which is missing on the petrol car.
Start the motor and you will be impressed with its quietness. There is some vibration at idle but once on the move, things settle down. Though it does has a characteristic diesel hum, rear seat occupants won't be able to tell what fuel is powering the Micra while travelling.Unlike other diesel rivals, which deliver a sudden burst of energy only past the 2000rpm mark, this engine delivers power in a very petrol-like linear manner.
Though its power output may be 12bhp less than the Swift DDiS, the Micra is also 67kg lighter, so performance is never blunted. Engine responses from low revs are also impressive, which makes this a good car to drive in the city. That also means that revving it out pays very few dividends, so it suits a fairly relaxed driving style.
While the gearbox is slick and easy to operate, the clutch feels heavier than the petrol Micra. Town travel and constant gear shifting can take a toll on your left leg. The light steering though makes parking in tight spaces a cinch and nothing can match the Micra’s tiny turning circle. At just 9.3 metres, it’s better than any rival and makes the Micra one of the easiest cars to manoeuvre in town.
The suspension is good at taking the sting out of particularly nasty bumps, but it can feel jittery over the smaller ones that come at you thick and fast, both at low speeds and higher speeds. The handling isn’t great either. There’s a lot of body lean in bends, and while the light steering gets heavier the faster you go, it doesn’t get heavy enough.
At 1008kg, the Micra is lighter than the Swift and Figo diesel versions, and this automatically translates into good fuel economy figures. The diesel-powered Micra delivers 23.08kpl (certified by ARAI), making it the best in its class.
The cabin remains unchanged except for the addition of a new gear knob and also new silver inserts on the steering wheel. Apart from these, you get the same cabin. The Micra has big windows and skinny pillars, so visibility is pretty good all round. Most of the switchgear is easy to use, too, but a couple of controls are tucked away out of sight. Getting comfy could be an issue, too – the steering wheel only adjusts for height, and there’s no seat-height adjustment.
Front and rear legroom and headroom is better than cars such as the Swift and Figo and sitting under the roof’s highest point, the tallest of seat occupants won’t fall short on headroom. But the cost cutting shows through in the thin cushioning on the seats; we wish Nissan could rectify this and also give the rear seats more underthigh support. The light beige colour adds to the feeling of roominess as well, but it has a tendency to soil easily. Nissan hasn't offered twin gloveboxes. Surprisingly, the top glovebox doesn't open up in the diesel.
In terms of equipment you get driver's side airbag, automatic climate control, stereo, rear wiper and alloy wheels as standard on the top-end XV version. There is no ABS on offer even as an option. Overall, the Micra diesel is a cheerful small car that promises low running costs and decent equipment.